The Zika virus may be the least of our fears during the upcoming 2016 Olympics in Rio de Janeiro.
A new report shows that athletes and spectators are likely to be exposed to an antibiotics-resistant super bacteria, Reuters reports. The super bacteria was identified on beaches near the sites of upcoming Olympic swimming and rowing events, as well as in popular tourist spots.
According to the report, the bacteria can cause urinary, gastrointestinal, pulmonary, and bloodstream infections that are difficult to treat. In some cases it can even lead to meningitis. Moreover, those who become infected with the bacteria have a high death rate, since the bacteria can’t be treated with medication. The studies found that 90 percent of samples from Flamengo Beach, where spectators are expected to convene to watch the sailing competitions, were contaminated.
Unlike Zika, which is fairly difficult to spread where the infected mosquito carriers are not present, the superbug could pose a much more deadly risk. Spectators and athletes who don’t show symptoms until leaving the games could potentially be at risk of spreading the infection to their home countries, families, and medical personnel.
It is assumed that the spread of the bacteria is a result of waste from hospitals and households that has been poured into storm drains, rivers and streams near or within Rio de Janeiro.
The water contamination is a troubling result of poor sanitary oversight, according to Renata Picao, a professor at Rio de Janeiro’s federal university and lead researcher.
“These bacteria should not be present in these waters. They should not be present in the sea,” Picao told Reuters.
With the serious health risks mounting, it remains to be seen whether the Rio Games will be the fun and exciting competition we always expect from the Olympics. Here’s hoping that Brazilian and Olympic officials will take the risks seriously before it’s too late.